Syria steps up offensive ahead of cease-fire
DAMASCUS / UNITED NATIONSSyrian troops and tanks battled rebels on April 6, opposition activists said, days before a troop pullback agreed by President Bashar al-Assad as part of international envoy Kofi Annan’s plan to end a year of bloodshed.
The renewed violence erupted a day after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the conflict was worsening and attacks on civilian areas persisted, despite assurances from Damascus that its troops had begun withdrawing under the plan.
Annan said both the government and opposition must stop fighting at 6 a.m. Syrian time on April 12. But activists reported tank fire in at least three urban centers on April 6 - the town of Douma near Damascus, Homs and Rastan, north of Homs, Reuters reported.
UN envoy slams Turkey
As fighting continues, Syria’s U.N. envoy on April 5 demanded that Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Western nations not undermine Kofi Annan’s peace mission by paying and supporting opposition groups.
Bashar Jaafari lashed out at Gulf Arab states for their “petrodollar” support for Syrian opposition groups and at Turkey for hosting a Friends of Syria meeting. “We need to get commitments from the Qataris, from the Saudis, from the Turks, from the French, from the U.S., that Annan should be given a chance in order to succeed,” Agence France-Presse quoted Jaafari as saying.
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera’s ex-producer for the channel’s Beirut Bureau, Moussa Ahmed, said on April 6 that the channel fabricates news on Syria in favor of the rebels. He said that news writers conceal a number of facts and exaggerate the scale of the opposition movement and the number of casualties in the region. Moussa was one of the five employees who resigned in March opposing biased coverage of the Arab Spring in Libya, Bahrain and Syria.